Until you can have open, safe, and honest discussions about your financial beliefs, philosophies, fears, habits, and goals, it is unsafe for you to be financially intimate. That goes double if you can’t talk about money without one or both of you feeling judged or attacked, or becoming angry or resentful.
Invite your love interest to read books about money—together.
Reading books together can be an easier, less anxiety-producing way to ensure that money conversations happen. Here are two great recommendations:
4 Financial Languages: The Secrets To Communicating About Money by Tarra Jackson. As Jackson’s “money mentor,” I wrote the foreword to this excellent book about understanding the different styles of communication when it comes to money, including scripts to help you speak and understand each other’s money language.
I Can’t Afford To Marry You: A Guide To Understanding The True Cost of Love by Marilyn Logan. This book is a powerful look at what happens when the then-fiancée of the author called off their marriage one month before their wedding date—placing her on a path to learning serious lessons about money management and financial responsibility in a committed relationship.
Get financially naked.
If either or both of you are unwilling to reveal your complete financial histories and details of your current financial situations–including credit reports and scores, outstanding loans and debts, credit cards, child support obligations, and bankruptcies–do not engage in any form of financial intimacy.
Meet with a financial planner.
If you view yours as a serious relationship (meaning you are considering cohabitation, procreation and/or marriage), I strongly suggest that you both go together to meet with a professional financial advisor. Meeting with a financial professional puts to the test your ability to not just talk about finances, but to actually work in partnership with your financial planning.
Any resistance to or refusal of this idea is a sign that you should not only avoid engaging in financial intimacy, but seriously consider ending the relationship before you do serious damage to each other. (You’d be surprised how often a good financial planner can predict the failure of a relationship after just one or two meetings.) Again, if you can’t even talk openly and honestly about money, you very likely have no future together—or at least, not the future you want.
Never assume that you can love anyone into changing their financial habits.
The object of your affection may seem perfect for you–the person of your dreams—except for the way he or she handles money. No matter how strong your feelings are for one another, your love will not cure a person of a shopping addiction or abusing credit cards, or make that person change the unhealthy financial behaviors that destroy both relationships and finances. A person who is not financially responsible will not miraculously become trustworthy and fiscally prudent because you fell in love. Nor can you force (“love”, seduce, bribe, threaten, guilt, shame) anyone into adopting your financial values, priorities, and goals.
You may be able to work together to seek help to deal with money issues, but a person can only change their financial habits for himself or herself, not to please you or just to keep a relationship going. Protecting your financial health as you make decisions in pursuit of love, sex and relationships (in whatever order) requires you to see people as they are, not as you wish them to be, and operate accordingly. Alarm bells should go off if you or anyone you are interested in cannot pass—or worse, refuse to agree to—the above safety checks.
If a person is not healthy for you financially, chances are high that he or she is an unhealthy choice for any kind of intimacy (including sexual and emotional) in a relationship. Grown decision-making will often mean bypassing or ending relationships with those who do not pass the above safety checks, in order to remain open and available to relationship candidates who are healthy and safe for you in every way—including financially. That’s our standard in the Grown Zone.
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